“What can I do with these small hands?”

There are a few things about my body I’ve always been self-conscious about, not the regular things but little details. I always aspired to have elegant hands. The kind with long, graceful fingers and delicate wrists. But very little in my body is shaped that way. I’m compact, with bold and sure lines. I’m formed of curves and muscle. My hands reflect those same short but strong characteristics. Square palms, straight, squat fingers. My hands are working hands, they are not beautiful.

My hands, can’t seem to stay still while I’m telling a story or expressing a point. I imagine my gestures are as graceful as I’d like for them to be. I would be satisfied with a perfect manicure, then practicality takes over; for the sake of knife speed, guitar playing and heavy lifting I cut my vanity down to a short, unfussy length and splash them occasionally with bright colours.

I know those long, elegant fingers wouldn’t belong on my body. I can see for myself how my father’s more delicate wrists would look strange at the end of my arms. My hands are small, generally speaking, but not with a natural deft flexibility. I have to work hard with delicate tasks. They are covered in tiny knife scars, the way that chefs’ hands often are. Just this morning, I glanced a too sharp blade against an unwary finger. There is a blurred spot from my knuckles brushing against concrete in youthful exuberance. A trace of where a lighting rig stole some skin, a pocket where a nail got a shot in. Some fade over time, others remain. But I see them all.

I turn my hands over for a new set of callouses. A knife scar might be mistaken for a number of things but these callouses tell you what I do. The actions I’ve repeated over and over. What I do tells you something about who I might be. So these callouses I’m more fond of, because they are telling a story I don’t mind so much.

There’s no mistaking the callous of where my knife blade rests against the base of my index finger, or where my pen sits pressed against my middle finger for hours of writing at a time. And at my fingertips and the side of my thumb, my skin is made tough and worn smooth by guitar strings. These marks have corresponding stories on the rest of my body. A scar hidden by my tattoo, from a sweaty summer night where a blister formed and burst under my strum. A near permanent bruise on my right thigh where my guitar sits inside my arms. In the same way, an indentation on each of my wrists from where I sit at this laptop cataloguing my thoughts.

All these stories, telling you something. That I am a maker of things, I hope. That from my functional, sturdy, un-beautiful hands something beautiful is being made.

But there is something more. If I look at my hands the way a palm-reader would, I can see what is possible. I see these clear lines, soft valleys. What is unseen, what leaves no mark is touch. My touch is strong and warm. My hands are almost never cold.  I twiddle my thumbs without irony. They are endlessly curious, exploring new territories. They almost never stop moving, even at rest my fingers curl around themselves. I love to touch.

There is one thing, though, from these practical, unbeautiful hands. My hands are capable of making something that lives inside of my flesh and yours. My hands can make home. A safe place, a healing space, a comforting space. My hands can show you my love in silence. I feel it when I take a newborn into my arms, or when my 10-year-old nephew climbs into my lap and asks for tickles. When I walk in the forest I place my hand on the totara and the pohutakawa and say thank you. My pulse warm against the aging bark, I say a thousand things with these hands that could never make their way into words.

When moments come and my hands touch you and hold you, other human – I thank you too, for letting me make something beautiful.